Poachers, smugglers, and other fish and game felons steal our shared natural resources, and “Cal’s Poaching Desk” is here with all the sordid details. For more stories of wildlife wrongdoing, be sure to tune in to “Cal’s Week in Review.” New episodes drop every Sunday.
A Kansas man received multiple citations from Finney County game wardens after they caught him “fishing” with a 9mm handgun.
Details are scarce at the moment, but the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks reports that officials seized a firearm that was used successfully to take a fish in Garden City. The full-sized Ruger American handgun had been outfitted with a flashlight in case, you know, the fish didn’t start biting until after dark.
Game Wardens noted in a Facebook post that it is illegal in Kansas to “catch” a fish with any type of firearm. And if we’re being honest, anyone shooting at fish in the water is more of a danger to themselves and others than to the fish. Both because it demonstrates a certain lack of judgment and because bullets can ricochet off the water and hurt someone.
A Canadian judge fined a YouTuber $6,000 for illegally killing eight cutthroat trout in Banff National Park.
The YouTuber, a man from British Columbia named Greg Ovens, was filming a video series called the “30 Day Survival Challenge in the Canadian Rockies,” according to The Canadian Press. Owens was filming the series alongside an American named Zachary Fowler, and both men had been contestants on Season 3 of the History Channel series “Alone.”
The pair had purchased fishing licenses, but said they did not realize the lakes were catch and release only. They also used worms as bait, which is prohibited because it could introduce a microscopic parasite that can be deadly to trout and salmon. Along with the fine, the judge ordered Ovens to post details of his plea and sentence to the YouTube channel where the videos are located.
Speaking of illegal fishing, Carnival Cruise lines has banned at least two passengers after they were caught fishing from the deck of a ship. “Caught” is probably too strong of a word because the offending anglers posted a video of their escapade on TikTok.
That video has since been deleted but not before it went viral and caught the attention of Carnival Cruise officials. The video shows someone hand-lining a fish from the water several stories below the deck while the boat is docked at Nassau in the Bahamas.
The short-lived fishing trip violated multiple Carnival Cruise line policies, not to mention local fishing laws in the Bahamas.
A Montana man was sentenced last month on a felony Lacey Act charge in connection with illegal shed hunting in the Bridger-Teton National Forest.
Bozeman resident Joshua Anders Rae was convicted of collecting shed elk antlers outside legal dates for areas west of the continental divide in Wyoming. These areas were closed to protect wintering deer and elk, but Rae just couldn’t resist the sweet, sweet smell of snow-covered antlers.
That, and he operated an online elk antler dog chew business and wanted to get in ahead of all the other shed hunters. Not only did he hunt in an off-limits area, but he was also in the region a day before the start of the legal shed hunting season.
And this wasn’t the first time he’d been caught. Back in 2021, he was convicted of a misdemeanor Lacey Act violation for the same behavior in the same region. He was sentenced to pay $15,000, but this most recent investigation revealed he hadn’t paid any of that restitution.
He pleaded guilty to this latest charge along with violating his probation and was sentenced to 90 days of home confinement, a 5-year ban from entering federal public lands, and a 5-year ban on hunting.
Speaking of the Lacey Act, an Arkansas hunter is facing fines and probation for poaching a bull caribou in Alaska and transporting it back home.
The United States Attorney’s Office charged 54-year-old Edward Bundy after he killed the animal in Alaska while falsely claiming Alaska residency. All states treat resident and non-resident hunters differently, but Alaska is especially strict about its residency requirements for hunting big game. Court records show that Bundy had the caribou shipped from a tannery in Alaska to his Arkansas home, which is where he ran afoul of the federal Lacey Act.
He faces up to one year in jail and $100,000 in fines, but a tentative plea agreement shows Bundy getting hit with a $12,000 fine and 18 months probation where he is not allowed to hunt anywhere in the world. He would also be forced to surrender two caribou and one black bear trophy to U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials.
In Wyoming, officials are searching for the person who shot a grizzly bear and left it on the side of the road.
Spokespeople for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department told the Cowboy State Daily last week that there is an open investigation into the incident but did not offer further details. The large male grizzly appears to have been shot from the side of the road between Yellowstone and Cody, and wildlife officials were seen scouring the area for clues.
Media outlets are reporting local “outrage” about the incident, and that’s understandable. Seeing any animal go to waste on the side of the road is terrible. Killing an animal that is so politically sensitive is a setback towards the goal of official recovery and state management as well. Plus, you know, you're just an asshole.
Update: A hunter named Patrick M. Gogerty has been charged with killing this grizzly bear, according to the Powell Tribune. He told officials he thought it was a black bear from about 100 yards away and fired at least seven shots. He's being charged with a misdemeanor count of taking a trophy game animal without the proper license or authority. He allegedly shot the bear on May 1 and turned himself in on the morning of May 2.
We’ll end this week’s poaching desk with a fish mystery. A fishtery, if you will.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resource is seeking the public’s help after thousands of trout were killed at a fish hatchery. The DNR reported on Facebook that someone closed a discharge valve in one of the raceways at the Albert Powell Fish Hatchery. These valves help oxygen circulate in the raceways where the trout live and grow.
By the time employees noticed something was wrong, 25,000 fish had died due to lack of oxygen. The DNR says the vandal struck at some point between 11:30AM on Sunday and 7:30AM Monday morning.
These trout were set to be released for Maryland anglers during the 2024 season, and their loss is estimated at $75,000, which is low. Think about the economic impact that surrounds the fishing public on opening day of the season: gas station money, hotel money, diner money. If anyone has any information about this incident, contact Jeremy Miller at 410-260-8888.
Feature image via Kansas Wildlife & Parks - Game Wardens Facebook Page.